Ham Radio Transceiver Buying Guide

It is the age of information, and many people make the internet their preferred source of communications with others. That said, many other people make use of radio transceivers to connect and communicate with other people for non-commercial purposes. Known as HAM radios, these devices allow amateur radio enthusiasts from around the world to find and talk to one another directly. This capability makes HAM radio a very popular pastime, but without a sturdy and capable transceiver this interchange isn't possible. This HAM radio buying guide will provide readers interested in getting their licenses with the knowledge that they will need to find the transceiver that best fits their individual needs.

Types of Ham Radios

Handheld 2m or 70cms Radios

HAM radio newcomers or veterans who would like to have access to local networks and appreciate the convenience of light and portable equipment often opt for 2m handheld radio transceivers. These types of HAM radios usually offer a minimum of 5 miles of coverage, which can be expanded to well over 20 by making use of local radio signal repeating stations. One of the biggest attractions of these kinds of HAM transceivers is their ability to be taken anywhere that the operator goes due to their small size. This portability and convenience comes with a price though, and this is expressed in their relatively limited range and battery life. This is balanced out by the ability of some transceivers to operate on a dual band basis, allowing users access to whole new worlds of co-enthusiasts.

Mobile HAM Transceivers

Mobile transceivers provide HAM radio broadcasters with more power and therefore more range, but require more power as a result. They are also less portable that those of the hand held variety, often being mounted in a vehicle. Because of their relatively high output that can be around 60 Watts, they may require a power source that is capable of supplying at least 12V of flow. In addition to the power requirements, mobile transceivers usually need the service of a larger antenna in order to truly meet their potentials.

Base stations

For even more power, range, and functionality, HAM radio base stations are the way to go. These are generally larger and more power hungry than mobile stations, and as a consequence of this are usually permanently installed in homes or other structures. In addition to the transceiver, the fixed station will usually have several antennas as well as multiple means of communications. These include telegraph for broadcasting in Morse code, computer interfaces for sending messages in digital mode, and of course a microphone for regular dispatches. Rotating antennas and signal amplifiers are also commonly seen fixed station features, many of which are usually powered from an AC power source within the station. That being said, many serious HAM users have supplied their stations with backup power sources in case of outages.

HF HAM Transceivers

For the adventurous souls that enjoy connecting with individuals on the other side of the globe, HF transceivers will fit the bill. Not only do they allow for powerful transmissions, but HF transceivers make it easy for operators to listen to broadcasts from exotic sources such as ships, weather outposts, and even airplanes in some cases.

Pay Attention to

Programmable memories

Most HAM users will over time form a list of favorite stations and fellow users who they tune into most frequently. In order to help users to avoid having to constantly remember these stations and frequencies, many modern transceivers are capable of storing these stations in erasable and programmable memories, and this makes life a whole lot easier in the process.

Digital Signal Processing

This brings software based functions to the table, effectively replacing many bulkier and less capable electronic circuits. DSP's perform many vital functions and should be on every HAM enthusiast's wish list.


Closely related to memory is HAM transceiver scanning capability. Simply put, this allows the unit to automatically scan different parts of the spectrum for signals, making it unnecessary for the operator to do so. This is a time saving device that can and does up the productivity levels of HAM operators, and is thus a desirable feature to look for in new equipment.

Antenna types

HAM radio relies heavily on antennas to get the job done, but it is of critical importance for the prospective user to get the antenna that matches their needs and equipment. HAM enthusiasts will want to keep and eye on the size and the gain of the antenna, as well as the type of mount that will be required for specific mobile antennas.

Computer interfaces

Computers are ubiquitous in modern society, and most HAM operators are likely to have one in their home already. In order to take advantage of the capabilities of their home computers, prospective HAM operators should make sure that whatever HAM rig they procure has an interface that will make connecting with their computer seamless and simple.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Kenwood TH-F6A

This is a compact hand held HAM transceiver that offers dual band functionality in an easy to use package. Appropriate for newcomers to the field.

2016 Real Radio Comunicador

This mobile HAM transceiver is fully capable of being mounted in a vehicle, and comes with literally dozens of useful functions. Of value to more experienced operators.

Kenwood TS-99OS

This versatile base station comes with all necessary modern bells and whistles, and will be most appreciated by the advanced and experience user.